Yoga is a full-body exercise that strengthens muscles and promotes balance. Studies show that it also helps reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep and balance, and manage aches and pains.
Warm up with Cat-Cow, a pose that stretches the spine and core. Then, move to Downward Facing Dog. This classic posture stretches the shoulders and hamstrings.
1. Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is one of the most recognized yoga postures. When practiced correctly, this pose helps to lengthen the back of the body, strengthens arms & shoulders, and also stretches the hamstrings, calves & spine.
Many beginners struggle with determining the correct distance between the feet, which should be hip distance apart. This helps to reduce tension in the low back & prevent the shoulders from collapsing together, which can cause neck pain.
For those with limited flexibility, practicing this pose against a wall can help to achieve the correct alignment. For those who have trouble with a shoulder injury, this pose can be modified by placing blocks under the hands to shift weight into the legs, which are better adapted to support body weight.
2. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is a great hip opener and a nice stretch for the back of the thigh and buttock. It may be a challenge for those with tight hips. If it is painful or difficult to perform, you can try tucking your back toes and supporting the hip of the bent leg on a block or bolster.
Performing the Pigeon Pose correctly strengthens the psoas muscle, which is located in the lower lumbar spine and extends from the pelvis to the femur bone (thigh). It also helps improve the flexibility of your groin muscles and glutes.
This is a good yoga exercise for beginners who have back or knee problems, but it is not recommended for those with recent hip or knee surgeries. If you are unsure whether or not this yoga posture is suitable for you, consult your doctor or physical therapist.
3. Pyramid Pose
Pyramid Pose, also known as Parsvottanasana, strengthens the legs and improves balance. It also stretches the hips, back and shoulders and stimulates digestion. Its elongated spine provides spinal toning that relaxes the nervous system.
Beginners often struggle to find the correct alignment in this pose, especially if they are new to standing forward bends. Beginners may also find it difficult to keep the hips squared and the spine long both while getting into the pose and during the duration of its hold.
To modify this pose, place the hands on blocks or clasped together behind your back instead of grabbing onto the shins to avoid creating too much tension in the knee joint. Grabbing the shins can also cause the back to round and the hips to shift too far forward.
4. Passive Twist
Aside from providing a soothing stretch to the spine after a long day twists also help release blocked energies and stimulate the digestive system and other organs. They also strengthen the obliques and intercostal muscles.
To perform a twist correctly it’s important to keep the foundation stable and to twist mostly from the upper back. It’s also a good idea to resist the stretch with the opposing muscles (that is, shortening the muscle while lengthening its antagonist). This technique, known as PNF stretching, improves the muscle’s active flexibility by increasing the strength of the agonistic muscle. This increases the muscle’s resistance to injury. In addition, PNF stretching reduces the risk of herniated discs and sacroiliac joint instability. The authors of the study suggest that yoga instructors incorporate this method into their classes.
5. Happy Baby
Happy baby is a restorative yoga pose that’s good for beginners and yogis of all levels. It stretches the hips and inner groins, releases stress in the back and lower body, and calms the mind.
It also stimulates the kidneys to release waste and balance minerals. This is important to fend off heart disease and promotes healthy organ function.
Beginners often make the mistake of lifting their chin toward the sky during this pose, which compresses the neck vertebrae and causes injury. It’s important to keep the back of the neck flat and not lift it at all during this pose. Those with neck injuries or problems holding this pose should consider using a pillow or a yoga strap. They can also try a modified version of the pose by pressing their heels against a wall instead.